This is a tricky show for me, very mixed feelings. First, a summary of the action.
A woman is raped by her husband or an itinerant-yet-handsome soldier. She has twins, one dark and one light. The dark one is kicked out, perhaps, and grows up to be a mighty samurai. He is told that the white samurai killed his brother. He encounters the white samurai who IS is brother, they fight, the black samurai triumphs. He realizes he's killed his own brother as the white samurai lays dying, and commits seppuku, and they are happy in heaven together.
That is, that is roughly what happens.
Second, a description of the style.
It's a mix of a Zatoichi film (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363226/) and a Chinese kung fu film. Lots of physicality, barely any language. They've created what I expect someone will "Sino-ese" or maybe "Chin-esper-apanese". It's just a soundscape of noises that approximate what someone who doesn't speak the language might think it sounds like. They make a point of using specific words that are identifiable: sake, samurai, katana. They break into English only for two plot points, and for two jokes, when the samurai finally begin their epic battle. Having fought to a mutually injured standstill, they abandon their swords and engage first in "pinkie style" kung fu (the white samurai), countered eventually by the black samurai's "gay man style" (imagine Jackie Chan doing Drunken Fist but with limp wrists and you get the idea).
Here's their blurb from the program:
Genre: Theatre, Comedy, Physical Theatre / Non verbal
Since the fifth dynasty of the Fuonghua family, the legend of the Crying Cherry has been performed by the Tukurimastas; an artistic guild of thieves who engaged in the martial arts, circus skills, theatre and robbing. Maarten and Ian take the roles of these ancient performers and will tell you a legend so beautiful you'll turn into a Crying Cherry yourself.
International Theatreschool Award 2007
Dioraphte Amsteram Fringe Award 2008
Language: Non verbal (gibberish Japanese / Chinese)
Age accessibility: Suitable for all ages
Visual language, fantastic. Not as plastic as Jonno Katz, but that's I think a product of their respective physical bodies. In terms of execution, their miming is second to none and their various triumphs, defeats, and particularly their progressively grotesque wounds are all immaculately clean.
I'm doing my best to make this sound amazing, because it was, but the thing is I didn't really care for it. It was an hourlong joke that could have been wrapped up in a much shorter time. Not that it felt drawn out - the narrative took care of that, and it was very well put together. It looks from their 2007 like it was a student developed show, and that's how it felt, content-wise. Empty, an exercise. An incredibly well-executed exercise. There's a reason they went beyond sold-out at this final show (I was one of several people relegated to sitting in the aisles, and, had there been a fire, I would have been one of the people preventing us from fleeing to safety).
It was more imaginative than Backward Glance, it was more physically challenging than Cactus, it was more clearly virtuosic than Canarsie Suite, it was (for most of the audience) funnier than Dr. Brown.
It's a matter of taste, I can't think of anything else. I want content and form, these guys just had content. This is clearly the show to "let it be what it is," and I can recognize that, but I can't feel it. The performers were nothing short of brilliant. I want to see them do something that'll hit me, not just wow me. It doesn't have to be as heavy as In a Thousand Pieces - you can only take so much of that. But something. Give me something.
But that's my issue. More on reviews another day.